Every Friday, I scour the internet for new music releases. The weekly Friday Awards will highlight my favorite discovery each week, with a special emphasis on artists that are new, new-ish, or new to me.
January 24, 2020 (my 28th birthday) was a pretty solid release day, especially for artists starting with “C”: Caspian, Colony House, and meeeeeeee(!!!). That said, I’m not about to give the Friday Award to myself, so it was basically a shoe-in all along for this week’s “award” to go to my favorite instrumental artist, Caspian.
2012’s Waking Season was a personal favorite throughout my years in college, and 2015’s Dust and Disquiet did not disappoint. The wait was long, but the band finally returned with On Circles, a stellar release that pushes the bounds of what a post-rock, (mostly) instrumental band can be. With songs ranging from four to eight minutes, Caspian continues to do a consistent job of playing music that, on one hand, sounds like instrumental versions of the types of bands I most love, while on the other hand, crafting tight, emotional tunes that are in no need of vocals to sound complete. That said, they also surprise on this record by including singers on two tracks, most notably “Nostalgist,” which features Pianos Become the Teeth’s Kyle Dufrey.
The set starts strong with “Wildblood,” which foreshadows the stirring soft-loud dynamics and ambient atmospheres that you’ll receive plenty of in the following seven songs. What you don’t get much of on “Wildblood,” which mostly sticks to the rock group’s typical guitar/drums setup, is preparation for the array of instruments and styles throughout the set. In fact, “Wildblood” is such a jamming rocker that you’ll forget that it opened with a saxophone solo, before leading you into the mandolin and synths of “Flowers of Light,” the gorgeous string arrangements of “Division Blues,” and the stunning interplay of violin and acoustic guitar on “Ishmael.”
Caspian still show off plenty of rock muscle throughout the album, but they’ve managed to do so in a way that keeps the rock band formula satisfying, fresh, and memorable.
Author’s Note: The reason I created this website and write these articles stems from my belief that artists should support other artists, in the same way that art inspires art. My debut album Unfall is out now, and I’d love for you to hear it.